Disco—Is There Reason to Beware?
readers respond to information presented in these columns on Disco
IN ITS March 22, 1979, issue, Awake! warned its readers to beware of disco. The essence, the soul, of disco was shown to be free, “liberated” sexual expression.
Yet, is there really reason to beware of disco and its sexually free life-style? Some who read the Awake! articles don’t think so.
“I am a born again Christian,” wrote one. “I do not feel discos are as bad as you make them sound!”
Another wrote: “Disco dancing, music and going out disco hopping from one place to another can be good clean fun and nothing like the garbage that was printed in Awake!”
Still another said: “I just finished reading your magazine on discos, and I think the things you say are . . . very judgmental. You say discos mean sex, fornication, abuse—you’re crazy! Discos have good atmospheres.”
That is the way a number have expressed themselves. Yet do they have matters clearly in perspective? In the first place, the Awake! articles were not condemning everything called “disco.” Secondly, there are important factors that none of us should overlook.
Think about it. According to the Bible, Satan the Devil is “the ruler of this world.” He is “the god of this system of things.” (John 12:31; 2 Cor. 4:4) Since true Christians recognize that Satan is manipulating this world for his own purposes, shouldn’t we expect that he would also use the world’s entertainment in his efforts to turn people from true worship?
Appreciative of the Warning
By far the majority of those who wrote indicated that they have this Bible understanding of matters. They expressed thanks for the Awake! articles. Young ones and old alike said that they appreciated being alerted to the potential dangers of frequenting discos and seeing disco movies such as “Saturday Night Fever.” A sampling of these letters follows:
A 21-year-old from Illinois says:
“I am writing to you to thank you very much for the sound Scriptural counsel given in the March 22 ‘Awake!’ dealing with discos. The information given about ‘Saturday Night Fever’ shocked me.
“I have to admit that, while I had no desire to attend discos, I did enjoy some of the dancing and music. I definitely agree that they promote a ‘look at me’ attitude. I never thought it was that important of a thing. Now, however, I realize how corruptive such an attitude can be.”
Another 21-year-old, this person from Dallas, Texas, wrote:
“After reading the disco ‘Awake!’ I learned many things. I can see how it can be compared to that ‘other’ music that Moses referred to when he came down that mountain. [Ex. 32:17-19] It really does bring out animalistic tendencies. Even ‘older’ folks can get carried away with its hypnotic beat.
“Thank you so much for bringing out its origins and how it is involved with the ‘gay’ population. It really is something we young people need to stay away from. I am trying to readjust my thinking on it and realize how much Jehovah dislikes it. . . .
“I hope our young Christian brothers and sisters will take it to heart so they can hear the best music of all in Jehovah’s new system!”
From Portland, Oregon, came this short note:
“I just want to thank you for the information in the March 22 ‘Awake!’ on disco. Before that time I was going downhill spiritually. But when I read Hebrews 11:24-26 it recharged my batteries and changed my attitude about life. None of the temporary enjoyments of sin can ever compare to what we will reap in Jehovah’s kingdom. Again thank you for bringing this interesting point to my attention.”
The following are excerpts from a letter from a young person in Albuquerque, New Mexico:
“At a time when I doubted my recreational activities and habits, the article came out and cleared the ‘gray’ area, for me at least. But it didn’t stop there, as if youth had nothing to look forward to. . . .
“There is nothing ‘restrictive’ about wanting to serve God his way, even if it means ridicule from people that think ‘we are going too far.’ What it did for me was free me from doubts or hesitation about what I choose as entertainment. I am truly thankful for this enlightening material.”
A straightforward letter was received from a youth in California. He wrote, in part:
‘I am 17 and was raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was first introduced to disco by my cousin, who was a very good dancer. I really loved disco. I went to see “Saturday Night Fever,” and, in time, learned all the steps. I could do them just as good as Travolta. I began sneaking away to go to school dances, and won first place awards in disco dances. Everywhere I went I would clear the floor with my dancing, and it felt good to know people were looking in awe at my dancing. I soon had a Witness girlfriend in a different congregation who could dance like I could, but that was all we had in common. That soon ended and I was still dancing.
‘Then you wrote the articles on disco and it crushed me. I mean I love Bible truth, but I hated to give up my only hobby or anything that made me happy. I slowed down, but I didn’t stop. Then came the circuit assembly where disco was discussed and the talk about discos on one of our meetings. The speaker said that the reason for the magazine articles and parts on the assembly about disco was because somebody was not getting the point, and I knew it was me. So I really cut down on disco. Then I went to the movie “Hurricane,” and saw a tribal rite performed. It was exactly like what I was doing. When I saw it, it made me sick. So I quit disco.
‘I had heard reports of people committing fornication on the dance floor, and I came close to it myself. I am so glad that I am through with that way of life. I think we have a good group of youths who honestly love Jehovah. We all need encouragement from time to time so that is why I sent this letter. Thank you again.’
A high-school student from Michigan explained how much she personally benefited from the articles, and then explained:
“The ‘Awake!’ also served as a very good witnessing instrument in school. It is hard to find young people who think about God or even the problems in the world today. They live for today and not a care for tomorrow. So, the disco magazine fit in perfectly.
“Many young people remarked on the quote from a psychologist on the movie ‘Saturday Night Fever,’ and they also agreed the movie was sick as far as language and morals are concerned. They were also surprised to learn all that is involved in disco, and they appreciated the reasonableness in staying away from the harmful lights and sound levels that can cause physical damage.
“So, dear brothers, I wanted you to know how very much we appreciated the information on disco. We are very thankful Jehovah keeps feeding us at the proper time and keeping us spiritually as well as physically healthy.
“I hope, if Jehovah wills, you will publish more of these most interesting articles. For they not only help and guide us as Christians, but they are also attracting many young people to see the importance of living a clean life now, and the wonderful hope of living forever in peace.”
Emphasizing the Dangers
Some readers included experiences and news reports in their letters that highlight the unchristian conduct that is so prevalent at many discos. For example, a California reader sent along a clipping from the May 6, 1979, Parade. It says under the heading “Dangerous Dance”:
“Police say the ‘Freak,’ which is sweeping the nation’s discos, is the most dangerous new dance in a long time. Some call it ‘the dance of death’ or ‘the sex dance,’ others ‘the dance of jealousy’ or ‘the trouble dance.’
“When Jim Moore performed the Freak in Detroit with his girlfriend, an incensed young man named Jimmie Rogers allegedly shot him in the chest three times. Rogers has been charged with first-degree murder.
“In the same city, Oscar Ross is accused of shooting his young wife Sharon after watching her do the Freak at a neighbor’s house.
“The Freak is danced by partners who bend their knees, spread their legs, advance upon each other with whirling hips until they touch. At this point, some couples retreat while others improvise.”
A letter from a reader in England included a clipping from the London Daily Mail of May 2, 1979. Beneath the heading “Disco Deaths ‘Must Be Stopped,’” the newspaper said:
“Action to halt violence at discos is being urged after the death of a student last week took the number of disco killings in London to seven in four months.
“Mr. Bryan Cassidy, vice-chairman of Greater London Council’s public services and safety committee, said yesterday: ‘I am appalled at the growing number of deaths and serious injuries as a result of violence at some disco venues.’ . . .
“One 17-year-old was stabbed to death after taking his fiancée to a disco to celebrate their engagement. . . .
“Mr. Cassidy said: ‘There is no doubt that the disco business is a growth industry but we cannot allow violence to grow up with it.
“‘I am sure sex is behind much of the violence in our clubs, combined with the heavy beat of the music which is very physical.’”
Yes, the evidence is abundant that discos generally are not places to enjoy “good clean fun,” at least not what true Christians consider good clean fun.
Is All Disco Bad?
Are we saying that all places or things that may have the word “disco” attached to them are bad? No, for so many things, including food, clothing and restaurants, have taken the label “disco” due to the popularity of the word. Nor is all disco music or dancing necessarily sexually suggestive or immoral. As the Awake! article of last March noted: “Disco is simply music and dance, and can be shaped into any form desired.”
Thus the above Awake! magazine added: “Some ‘discos’ may be restaurants, the music and dancing perhaps even being rather incidental, or not even featured during normal dining hours. Such places, and perhaps even others, may feature a form of music and dancing that Christians find acceptable. But these ‘discos’ would not reflect the disco life-style, which conflicts with the precepts of true Christianity.”
The firsthand experience of Benny Golson, an elder in a Los Angeles, California, congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, emphasizes the fact that there really is reason to beware of disco and its immoral life-style. During the week that a traveling representative of Jehovah’s Witnesses was visiting the congregation, Benny gave a talk based on the March 22 Awake! about disco. He prepared in writing what he said, excerpts of which follow.
I AM a song writer, and a musician. I have recorded and played with the jazz bands of Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Lionel Hampton, Benny Goodman and Earl Bostic. I have written music for such well-known artists as Peggy Lee, Eartha Kitt, Connie Francis, Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Ross, and for such television shows as Mission Impossible, The Partridge Family, M*A*S*H and Mannix. So early this year, when I heard that Awake! was to feature material on disco, I eagerly awaited its coming.
When finally the March 22 Awake! arrived, I read it at once. I must say, it disturbed me. I didn’t agree with it; I filled all of the empty borders of every page with personal comments. The idea that homosexuals were behind disco was absolutely absurd. I was convinced that I had to write a letter to the Watchtower Society about the matter. But I decided to do a wise thing without realizing just how wise it was at the time. I decided first to take a closer look at the industry that I was a part of. When I did, I received jolt after jolt.
Things I Discovered
A friend of mine, a Witness, had just completed an album for a major record label in Los Angeles; the concept, however, was not disco. A homosexual in the company began making “waves.” He wanted to take the 24-track tapes (individual unmixed tracks) back to New York to re-mix them, perhaps bringing the bass drum, cymbals and electric bass “out front” (feature them), thus the infectious disco beat. All of this was against my Witness friend’s will. However, they did at least consent to let him go back to New York too.
When they arrived at the studio in New York, the homosexual from Los Angeles was met by two more homosexuals. My Witness friend had to leave the studio several times during the re-mix so as not to “blow up.” As it turned out, the disco mix did not work well so that he was then free to go on with his original mix.
A non-Witness acquaintance of mine more recently was faced with the identical problem with another major record label. He had just completed an album (non-disco) for a popular vocal group of many years, and the company did not like the mix. They, too, wanted him to go back to New York where the homosexuals waited.
The manager of a recording artist I know said that there is a ‘slight disco problem’ in New York these days. This is because the homosexuals, who have now banded together, are trying to force the disc jockeys to program music of the homosexuals’ choice. The jockeys resent this and are resisting to some extent. The public, of course, is crying out for disco.
I really didn’t realize how bad the moral atmosphere is in discos. There is a club in the Los Angeles area that has a “Pajama Disco Nite” where everyone comes in bedroom attire. The women, in trying to outdo each other, wear flimsy, see-through, loosely fitting negligees. The club is packed on those nights.
Disco has indeed come to involve more than music and dancing. “It’s a certain life-style,” a friend recently remarked. And he’s right, disco fashions—T-shirts, tight, shiny, hugging pants, low-cut, see-through blouses, flare skirts that reveal bikini-like undergarments, and all kinds of masquerade-like attire—are flooding the market. We don’t want to forget the disco lights, or the “hip” way in which a person carries himself.
Maintain Our Christian Guard
It’s true that certain kinds of dancing are, in themselves, not objectionable. Yet when the dancing and music are linked with varying and questionable “backdrops,” the picture changes dramatically.
The Bible says: “Flee from fornication.” (1 Cor. 6:18) We would like to think that this kind of thing is not in our minds, and perhaps it isn’t. Nevertheless, many who profess to be Christians have fallen prey to this kind of desire. What happened? They let themselves be “primed” for it. They let themselves be led step by step to the effects of those kinds of desires—and committed fornication.
There’s a strange thing about people. They usually think adverse things happen only to other people. When it happens to them, they can be heard to exclaim in bewilderment: “I didn’t think it could happen to me.” But it can; it is happening even to persons who say they love God. Many more than we’d like to think have fallen prey to some “disco tragedy.” That desire to “get down” (become an integral part of what’s going on) has been the undoing of many only because it seemed so harmless, so much fun at the outset.
Jehovah does not condemn entertainment. He wants His people to be happy and enjoy life and certain pleasures, yet we must be discerning people. For example, before you dance you ought to ask yourself, “Is it music to dance by, or is it music to get aroused by? Are the music and dancing getting us ready for certain ‘pleasures’—pleasures that become an adjunct to the preliminary dancing overtures, namely, sexual expressions in dark places?”
How glad I am I never wrote that letter to the Watchtower Society! After taking a closer look at the kind of things that go on in my end of the business, I see I was somewhat naïve.
The Awake! article on disco said, “Dance is the most transparent indication of attitudes which the culture produces, because we can’t lie about the way we move.”
How do you move? With Jehovah or against Him?—Contributed.
[Blurb on page 21]
‘The number of disco killings in London rose to seven in four months.’
[Blurb on page 23]
“I Didn’t Agree at First”
[Blurb on page 24]
‘I didn’t think it could happen to me.’